I keep getting asked who Donald Trump should select, and — because Trump is so unique — the options are almost limitless ([crscore]Joni Ernst[/crscore], [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore], Scott Brown, Jan Brewer — I could go on and on).
But one name I think deserves mention is Jim Webb.
Before you laugh, here’s the argument:
First, just as Bill Clinton’s selection of Al Gore in 1992 eschewed the “balance the ticket” maxim, and instead, doubled down on the brand, Webb reinforces Trump’s populist “everyman” image. 13 Potential Running Mates For Donald Trump
Ah, but you say, Webb is a Democrat! This is a feature, not a bug. Donald Trump was also a Democrat. [crscore]John McCain[/crscore] considered selecting Joe Lieberman in ’08. This isn’t entirely unprecedented. And part of Trump’s appeal is that he’s not beholden to ideological (or populist) orthodoxy — or, for that matter, partisan labels. He’s pragmatic. And, like Trump, Webb has been both a Republican and a Democrat. This could have appeal.
Trump has said he wants a political insider as a running mate, and Webb offers him the chance to find somebody who is simultaneously an insider and an outsider. He was a U.S. senator, a highly decorated combat Marine in Vietnam, and later secretary of the Navy. He provides experience and gravitas without muddying the brand.
A disclaimer: Back in 2004, I was rightly mocked for suggesting that Webb should be taken seriously in the Democratic primary. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
For a nation hungry for real leadership, Webb’s image as a competent, no-nonsense leader might resonate. The fact that Webb stepped away from the U.S. Senate on his own terms implies he’s not just some politician. And his history of being a Democrat who can work with — and stylistically appeal to — Republicans would potentially be a plus in a general election.
In hindsight, I was obviously utterly wrong about what would work in a Democratic primary — but I think I was right about the hunger among a lot of working class Americans for someone like Webb. In fact, I would argue that Trump’s success sort of reinforces the fact that everything I said about Webb has an audience.
It’s just not in the Democratic Party. A man like Webb has no future there. He’s better suited for Donald Trump’s new Republican Party. Just look at how Republicans praised his performance in a Democratic primary debate last year.
Ah, but you say Jim Webb has scandals! Indeed, he does. Here’s what I wrote about that in 2014:
In a novel Lost Soldiers, he describes a graphic scene of incest and pedophilia between a returning soldier and his son that is too explicit to quote from here; in another he describes a woman performing sexual acts on a banana.
When Webb ran for the Senate, this was brought up to no avail. But running for president is an altogether different animal. One wonders how American voters would feel about these fictional depictions. And there’s more. Critics point out that he has written fondly of his own Confederate roots and defended the Southern states’ decision to secede from the Union, which led to the American Civil War.
In 2004, he said that John Kerry deserved to be condemned for his youthful opposition to the Vietnam War — a position shared by millions of Americans of that generation — and he has also argued that women cannot fight so are unsuited to combat roles in the US military.
One can imagine how these politically incorrect misdeeds would doom Webb in the Democratic Party. And one could even understand how in a normal political universe they might be disqualifying in any modern political party. But in a post-Trump world — on a Trump ticket where the old rules are out the window and nothing matters — these things are irrelevant. Seriously, this is nothing compared to what Trump has said or done.
Look, I’m not predicting Trump will select Webb. What I am saying is that the idea is not nearly as crazy as it might sound. Trump should give this some thought.